By Tony DeGol
Imagine not being able to indulge in pizza and hamburgers.
“I couldn’t do that,” one very honest student was overheard saying. “That’s not how I live. I couldn’t do that.”
That realization is exactly the point of a Lenten tradition for fifth graders at Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in State College.
On April 17 – Wednesday of Holy Week, the students enjoyed their annual luncheon in celebration of Catholic Relief Service’s Operation Rice Bowl.
The menu included empanadas, rice, black bean soup, corn muffins, and other tasty, but modest nibbles.
The meal, however, was really about food for the journey.
“The reason we’re doing this is to show you how lucky we are to live where we are,” stressed Father Neil Dadey, Pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish. He visited the children before they dug into their lunch.
“Not everybody has hamburgers, french fries, pizza, steak, and salad and all that we take for granted, Father Dadey continued. “Children sometimes just have rice with brown sauce. Don’t ever take for granted all the blessings that you have, and how lucky we are, and the food we have, and the amount of food we have. When you eat your lunch this afternoon, just understand that what you’re doing now is what other children are doing also because that’s all they have to eat.”
The luncheon, according to teacher Jill Shunk, is also an opportunity to focus on the good work of Catholic Relief Services.
“All the kids know about Operation Rice Bowl, and we see the Rice Bowl every year, and they know it buys rice, but Catholic Relief Services does so many more things than just food such as education, small businesses, helping communities find clean sources of water – all those things we try to open the fifth graders’ eyes to so they understand that idea of solidarity with the poor,” Shunk mentioned.
Parents and students prepared the goodies, including fifth grader Aubrey Yartz.
“I made bean soup,” she revealed proudly. “I think I’m pretty fortunate. I don’t have to eat just one thing every day for lunch or dinner or breakfast.”
Her classmate, Haden Lingle, loved the rice, but, more importantly, savored the overall lesson.
“Every time I eat, I take it for granted, and I don’t think about people that don’t have enough food as we do,” he stated. “Now, every time I’m going to eat I can remember what they have to eat, and they don’t really have a choice, but we have options.”
The spice of the empanadas pleased student Kevin Stolberg, but he, too, walked away with a more powerful message.
“It kind of helps me to realize that every time we take a bite of a french fry or hot dog, they don’t really have that kind of stuff in those countries, so it makes me not want to waste any of that food, and if I would, I would feel bad about it.”